Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opines that it’s time for the Phillies to accept that they won’t receive Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart or a prospect of that ilk (e.g. Corey Seager, Addison Russell) in exchange for ace Cole Hamels. He feels the team should restart talks with the Red Sox and focus on the slew of near-MLB-ready talent they have beyond those top two names, including Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson. While one could certainly construct an appealing package of those prospects, I’ll respectfully disagree with Rosenthal’s assertion that the Phillies should now drop their demands on Hamels. He struggled on Opening Day, but there’s little reason to expect those woes to continue, unless the team feels that there’s a risk for injury, which would complicate trade discussions in an entirely different fashion. A summer trade of Hamels could create more suitors, and if the demand for aces outweighs the supply — as is almost always the case — it’s easy to envision a team going beyond its current comfort zone at that time. As my colleague Jeff Todd has previously pointed out, the Phillies are in far less of a “must-trade” situation with Hamels than the Rays were with David Price, for example. Philadelphia has the resources to wait and see, unlike smaller-market teams that are forced to make a deal for fear of injury or rapid decline.
Here are some more notes on the Phillies…
- Setup man Ken Giles was flat out dominant as a rookie in 2014, but he was plagued by back tightness in spring and struggled in his debut, showing diminished velocity. Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to skipper Ryne Sandberg about the issue, and Sandberg said that Giles feels the lost velocity was due to a mechanical issue and not to anything physical. As Kaplan points out, Giles’ velocity topped out at 96.6 mph in his shaky debut — a far cry from his 101 mph peak and 98 mph average fastball from last season. Kaplan adds that Giles’ erratic command may be a bigger issue, as the presumed closer-in-waiting struggled with walks in the Minors but seemed to eliminate the problem in last year’s four-month big league debut.
- Kaplan also notes that right-hander Sean O’Sullivan has been tabbed as Sunday’s starter for the Phils, but he’s not on the 40-man roster, so a 40-man move is forthcoming. Both Cliff Lee and Mario Hollands are already on the 60-day disabled list, so transferring either of them is not an option. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com wrote last night that O’Sullivan is essentially a placeholder until righty Chad Billingsley’s pitch count is built up to around 100. Billingsley will throw 50 or so pitches tonight, per Salisbury, and could be ready for the big league rotation late this month or early in May. Billingsley spoke optimistically about his health and recovery from two elbow surgeries when asked by Salisbury.
- The Phillies’ current roster serves as a case study in the dangers of committing to a core for too long, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Britton looks not only at the club’s decision to extend Ryan Howard too long but also the expensive forays into aging free agents and the trade of young players such as Michael Bourn, Carlos Carrasco and Travis d’Arnaud. Britton acknowledges that few of the prospects traded by Philadelphia have panned out, but the exodus of young players has left the Phillies with few viable replacement options, which may have played a role in their decision to extend veterans like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley rather than trade them. (Then again, the Phils did nab a pair of solid pitching prospects for Rollins in the end, which has to be counted as a point in their favor.)